Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mothers Like Me and Hillary Clinton

I’ve spent too much time making the case that Hillary Clinton is a Progressive. 

Or that I am, for that matter. I have the credentials. I've been a Democratic Socialist and worked for Fair Trade and against US Drug Policy. I've protested for criminal justice system reform and against the second Iraq war. I gave my time and money to these causes, and yet never felt I quite belonged. There was always some man -- a younger or older white man -- ready tell me what more I needed to understand. Like, when I asked if a vote for Nader might put my reproductive freedom at risk by increasing the chances of a Republican winning the election? I was told this is just a tactic of the Democratic establishment to scare naive people like me to vote for moderates. When Gore (arguably) lost, I was told not to worry, he would have been just as bad as George W. Bush.

For a long time I've felt like maybe the problem was me--that I just couldn't compete. I could never devote myself to reading the right books and subscribing to all the Leftwing publications. And anyway, there was the business of raising a family to attend to. You know, the stuff that women sometimes do, which takes us away from The Important Work of activism and organizing. 

So I had my family and worked for non-profits that you'd say are in the human welfare field. A domestic violence and sexual assault agency, and an agency helping children with serious emotional and behavioral problems. I stayed involved in LGBT activism for awhile, but as the freedom to marry became more mainstream, I started to focus on politics closer to home --- specifically to educational equity issues in my children's school district.

The work I do today is still focused on social change. But I'm not sure it would qualify as "Progressive." Like, I'm not sure the work I do to educate and empower families fits within the priorities of today's Progressive Left. There's this idea that some problems are universal--bigger than the problems I choose to focus on. And, if those universal economic justice issues are addressed, then women's lives will be improved, because we are disproportionately victimized by our unjust economic system.

Here's what I think that leaves out -- a few examples you don't hear about in Progressive agenda as it's currently defined:
  • Rape.
  • Gender- and race-based pay gap.
  • Educational access and equity
  • Police brutality against young men of color.
  • Lack of access to safe and affordable contraception, preventative healthcare, and abortion , particularly among the rural poor.
  • Poverty in women-headed households.
  • Lack of access to quality affordable preschool.
  • Lack of access to mental healthcare and quality substance abuse treatment programs.
  • Job insecurity when a relative or child gets sick.  
  • Exploitation of undocumented immigrants.
  • Sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Some of these issues will be improved by changing healthcare policy and better regulating the financial sector. But most will not. Many of these issues don't require radical change--they just require our leaders to focus on them.

I've become the kind of person who believes in transforming our culture while living solidly within it. Call it leading from within, say "it takes a village." This is the politics I recognize in Hillary Clinton and other mothers like me -- mothers who learn to get things done from within systems because we don't have a choice. Mothers like me have kids who depend on us to keep them safe and clothed, fed, housed, and educated. Mothers like me:
  • Refuse to stop demanding that someone fix the poisonous water in Flint, MI.
    • Demand adequate resources to fund our children's urban schools.
    • Open our homes and build whole shelters to take in the beaten and raped women of our communities.
    • Show up time and again at IEP meetings and Civil Rights hearings, demanding equal access to education for our children with disabilities.
    • Demand that the murdered bodies of our children be seen by the world, in protest to a world where Black Lives are treated as if they don't matter.
    • Show up with our wives and children at the County Clerk office to request a marriage license that will protect our families.
    The Progressive movement hasn't really taken mothers like me seriously, and so I guess I'm going to stop worrying about whether we are Progressive. Our politics are coming from a different axis than the one our leftist brothers are operating on. Our politics take place along the depths of experience--at our parents' bedsides and at the graduations of our children. Mothers like me will continue to hold communities together and to shore up the programs and policies that families depend on.

    Whatever it’s called, I wonder if the men of the Left will notice, and notice soon, that mothers like me are onto you. When you say you include us: you don’t. When you say our issues are yours: they’re not. I'm not going to keep trying to convince you that Hillary is one of you, because you know what? She’s not. 

    My Progressive brothers, I'm done trying to impress you. There’s too much work to be done.